Archive for the ‘entertainment’ tag
Well, the shuttering of Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey circus has already been well discussed in Have Your Say. I'm one of the majority who haven't been to a show in decades, and don't really have any strong memories of the few times I did go (which would have been in the Carolina Coliseum), but the news brought me, my sister, my nieces and apparently three quarters of Columbia (judging by traffic) out to the show last Sunday, and I have to say I certainly enjoyed myself.
Rather than the traditional three-ring hodge-podge, this years show was themed, and had a overall plot, so in a way I guess it was more like a Cirque du Soleil presentation than sawdust and tent poles. The loose plot framework was that two boyhood friends had both become stellar ringmasters, one working for a circus master whose magic telescope let him pick the brighest "circus stars" and the other to an evil Russian-esque Circus Queen, Tatiana, whose mission was to poach those brightest circus stars to build her show. The framework let the misguided ringmaster do physical comedy and lead his army of clowns against the "good" ringmaster while the good ringmaster travelled from planet to planet recovering his stolen stars, which of course gave them many chances to perform.
Another innovation was the fact that, when not covered by various panels, the arena floor was ice, so there was a lot of skating involved too. All of the usual feats of deering-do were there, tumblers, trapeze artists, bareback riders, lion (well mostly tiger) tamers, as well as dogs and clowns. Only the elephants were missing.
Of course in the end, the two friends were reconciled and even Tatiana joined the combined show which set off for Earth so it could make good the tagline of being the greatest there too. To me it seemed an appropriate send-off for the end of an American institution.
The last time I saw The Beach Boys was on the now legendary 2012 50th Anniversary Reunion Tour in Atlanta. Since then, Mike Love and Bruce Johnston have been leading the "Beach Boys" flagged tour with the permission if not the participation of the other members, and Friday they brought the show to the North Charleston Performing Arts Center, a fairly intimate venue with great sound (in marked contrast to some of the outdoor venues I've seen them in over the years).
I got there about 40 minutes early and decided to have a concession stand hot-pretzel and beer while waiting: $13.50. Talk about your captive customers!
The shows started before the band came on with a video presentation with bits of Beach Boys' history and footage of performances from the last 50 years. Then the band came out and started into a back-to-back presentation of the surfing songs including "Surfin' Safari", "Catch a Wave", "Hawaii", & "Surfin' USA". The touring band is (at least for this venue) eight people. Mike & Bruce, of course, Jeff Foskett who has been with various band permutations since the 80s on guitar and falsetto, John Cowsill (from the 60s group "The Cowsills") on drums, Scott Totten on guitar and vocals, a Brian (not Wilson, obviously) whose last name I did not catch on bass and an energetic sax player whose name I did not catch at all as well as a second keyboard player.
I thought the sound was a little thin at the beginning on "Surfin' Safari", but they either made adjustments or everyone warmed up because things were much more solid after that. Mike did the MC duties and seems to be slipping into the role of "Elder Statesman" fairly well, something you might not have expected from the younger Love. His speaking voice had a bit of quaver, and at times you could hear his age in the leads, but on the whole he came over very well, including a long segment of "Do It Again" where he was completely unsupported by any other vocals for whole verses.
One of the criticisms Mike has gotten over the years is of running a greatest hits show rather than displaying the breadth of the Beach Boys catalog. In fairness, I think he knows what a festival audience wants, but in this venue he definitely showcased some of the lesser known gems including "Farmer's Daughter", "Kiss Me Baby", "Good To My Baby", "Surf City" & "The Warmth Of The Sun".
Although surprisingly Mike did not mention his recent memoir, the weight of history was definitely part of the show. One device, used several times, was having historical footage play behind the band while they performed a song. It was somewhat eerie at times to see current Mike singing in front of young Mike, closely in sync and often making the same gestures. That had to have taken a lot of practice. The band also paid tribute to the late Carl & Dennis Wilson by singing backup to historical leads: Carl on "God Only Knows" and Dennis on "Do You Wanna Dance?". This led into a segment where Mike touched on his Eastern beliefs about what goes on and what remains and introduced a well received new song "Pisces Brothers" that was largely a tribute to his late friend George Harrison.
Bruce got two notable leads during the show. One was, of course, his often covered and much loved "Disney Girls" while the other was "You're So Good To Me" during which he altered the original phrasing quite a bit, which was unexpected but largely worked, I thought. Speaking of which, I also noticed that Mike had written a number of new lyrics to "Getcha Back".
After a brief pro-forma walk-off, the band was back for an encore to close with two of their biggest crowd-pleasers Barbara Ann & Fun, Fun Fun (I can't put the version I recorded last night here, because it was very much a sing-along -- and I can't sing). I do have a few more videos to upload, so check this space again..
I got my ticket just after the North Charleston show was announced. Shortly after that, they also announced a show for 29 January 2017 at the Koger Center in Columbia. Folks, these guys are in their 70s: I highly recommend you go to the Columbia show if at all you can, because a) It's a great show & b) You may not have another chance.
Well, that's a shame.
While I was out of town, 92.1 The Palm vanished from the Columbia airwaves. This station had one of the most interesting playlists in town, running to R&B flavored cuts you didn't hear elsewhere along with album tracks that seemed to have been chosen with some actual thought. According to their goodbye message you may find a similar mix online at their sister stations in NC & VA though I have not yet sampled them. Wikipedia has the history of the frequency (officialy WWNU) here.
I'm not quite sure what has been going on with the replacement signal, praise channel HIS Radio. The first time I heard it, it was on 96.7 HD2, the old Son Of Steve spot, replacing Son Of Steve follow-on format "Classic Vinyl". After that, fairly brief, time, it moved to 96.7 HD3, with "Classic Vinyl" returning to HD2. Then I saw the billboard above trumpeting the debute of HIS Radio on 106.3. So, as of now, I believe HIS Radio is in the Columbia market at three simulcasting locations: 92.1, 106.3 and 96.7 HD3. That seems odd to me.
(Hat tip to commenter Mr. B.O. via email)
Murrels Inlet's hardluck mall Inlet Square took another blow in May with the closing of Frank Theaters.
This is actually the second set of theaters in this spot. I don't think I did a closing on it, but for many years this site was a Regal Cinema, and the setup kind of used to amuse me, since they often tore your ticket at the window and had no ticket taker inside. I'm sure many a teen just wandered in, and into a any showroom despite any lack of money or sufficent age for an "R" film.
After Regal closed, Frank Theaters leased the spot and did an extensive remodel for their cinema/restaurant/bowling/arcade conceptCine Bowl & Grille. I don't think the airport type restaurant and bar was really credible in the area, but the bowling alley portion seemed to do a good business as did the movies from what I could tell. There was no "attraction" screen like an "Imax" or "RPX", but it was all digital, and had pretty comfortable seats. I'm trying to recall the last movie I saw here, which would have been around Easter, but I'm drawing a blank.
At any rate, I was pretty surprised on my last trip around Memorial Day when I was googling movie times and nothing was coming up in Murrells Inlet: The Sun News has the story. On reflection, however, should have seen it coming. Several years before, I had seen this story about how the theater was way behind in lease payments to the mall. Since the place stayed open, I figured the two sides had worked something out. Apparently however, the theater was playing the same game as Borders Books, the "We're too important to you for you to kick us out" ploy. Given the sorry state of Inlet Square, you might almost expect that to work, but in the event, not.
In the past, when we stayed on Pawleys, we had the options of movies in Georgetown (The Hub), Litchfield (Tara), and Surfside (Deerfield Cinema), all south of Myrtle Beach. Now, the closest place is Market Commons.
UPDATE 21 March 2016 Wow, who would have thought this photo and letter would turn up at my house at this late date, but there we are: David Pearson's first ride crew on Thunder Road. See the text below for details.
Grit Your Teeth
Bear The Load
Enjoy Your Ride
On Thunder Road
-- Burma Shave
I was on the first run of Thunder Road on 3 April 1976.
As it happened, I had won a phone-in contest on WIS Radio. I suppose there were similar contests on stations all over the Carolinas to fill both cars. It was not the first time I had been to Carowinds, I remember a school trip in particular, but it was not the quick jaunt from Columbia it is nowdays, as I-77 between Columbia & Charlotte was not yet finished and it was a longish two lane drive on US-21.
In its initial configuration, the two track coaster was promoted as a "race" between moonshiners and police with the trams on each track having automobile body front ends. For the initial ride, we contest winners were divided into two teams, one per car, and in the front seat of each car was a then prominent NASCAR driver. I'm afraid I didn't (and don't) really follow NASCAR so the names of our team leaders has totally slipped my mind. I have the feeling that our team was on the right hand track, and that we were the law, but I couldn't swear that to you. What I do remember in particular is the set of four Burma Shave signs, quoted above, which were between the two tracks as the cars were chain pulled to the top of the first hill. They gave you something to laugh about just before cresting the hill and that first precipitous descent.
At the time, my experience with roller coasters was pretty limited. My father did not trust the travelling coasters at the State Fair, so the only coasters I had ridden were the Swamp Fox in Myrtle Beach, and the mining themed Goldrusher also at Carowinds. There was really no comparison, and Thunder Road was a thrill ride far and above either (though I still love both the others). There was just something about that initial jerk and the clank of the chains as you went up that first hill, then teetered on top of the world for a second before the bottom dropped out..
I rode Thunder Road many other times over the years, though probably not any after the early 1980s. I totaly missed the era when they ran one of the trains facing backwards.
When I heard that Thunder Road was to be retired, I wanted to try and be on the last ride, but in the event I was on vacation that day, and while I seriously considered making the ten hour round trip drive, in the end I didn't. It would make a better story, but that's life.
I did go out last weekend though and get what pictures I could of the attraction before it is all torn down. The entrance is in what is now the Snoopy section of Carowinds while the main body parallels the water park area.
It's kind of sad how little of the original Carowinds remains. Really, I think the only two remaining original rides are the Eastern Airlines Skytower and the aforementioned Goldrusher. While I was googling some Thunder Road facts for this post, I ran across a teriffic site Carowinds The Early Years where most of the links above come from, and which you should definitely visit. Who could forget The Oaken Bucket, The Hillbilly Jalopies, The Powder Keg Flume, the awful food at The Grubsteak (You expect grubs to be good steak? we asked..), The Paddle Wheel Steamer, The Skyway and The Monorail?
UPDATE 14 August 2015: My sister (who was also there the first day of Thunder Road though she did not have a first ride ticket) says she remembers that the NASCAR teamleaders were Cale Yarborough and David Pearson and that I was on Pearson's team. She has also found online sources saying it was Bobby Allison & David Pearson though that's not the way she remembers it (and all it takes is for one source to get it wrong and then be quoted by everyone else..)
I have also found a number of Youtube videos of Thunder Road. Here are a tribute video and then a front car POV video:
Falling, falling, falling..
It may seem strange to the under 50 crowd at this remove, but it's pretty much impossible to overstate what an incredible influence Fleetwood Mac's Rumours album had when I was in the last years of high school. Almost every track was on the radio at one time or another, and everybody had a copy. I would have had one, but I was dead broke at the time, so I somehow convinced my sister to spring for it. I taped her copy to cassette and it was in constant rotation with my Beach Boys albums in my jury rigged car player (which would reverse the tape and start playing the other "side" every time we hit a bump).
Rumours was the followup to the also very successful eponymous album Fleetwood Mac which established the band's "classic lineup". It was also the lead-in to the rather experimental Tusk which no doubt confused their legions of fans.
Over the years the band went through a lot of acrimony and romantic imbroglioes, with the fact that it was coed giving even more scope for feuding than even the Beach Boys "enjoyed".
Still, after all the dust settled, and after a sixteen year absence for Christine McVie, the classic lineup is back together and making music again.
I took the opportunity to see them in Charlotte, and everybody was in fine form, and looking and sounding pretty good for a bunch of 60 and 70 year olds. They played everything you would expect, and added a few new songs that, if not instant classics, were pretty good. As you can tell from the video and pix, I was *way* up in the nosebleed section, something I did not appreciate in the least while inching towards my seat like an action movie hero sidling along a window ledge over a twenty story drop. It was somewhat better once I actually had a seat, though as you can hear in the video, I fell in with a bunch of Chatty Cathys..
Anyway, it was a great show, and you should definitely catch them if you can.
As just a few random observations: It's amazing how bad a shape I-77 is in. It seemed like I was dodging huge ruts all the way to Charlotte. I don't remember that from my last trip in June, but it can't have gotten that bad that quick. Also, the parking garage at EpiCenter is the worst I've ever been in, like the old text based computer game "You are in a maze of twisty little passage all alike": It was amazingly hard to find the level changes rather than just driving by the same packed spaces again and again. Maybe I was "Over My Head"...
Kids' art studio, Tag It Art closed on 9 January 2015. You can see the classy farewell message here.
Forest Village is the little two-strip plaza that I still think of as the home of The Happy Bookseller though The Happy Cafe now occupies that spot.
(Hat tip to my sister)
The Free Times reports that this State Street loft has closed as of early December.
I really like comedy and make the trek to Charleston fairly often for improv, so I don't know why I never made it across the river. It's funny, I guess.
In my recent closing on the Lexington Monkey Joe's, I mentioned that I thought the Northeast location was still open. Well, I was wrong about that, and commenter Andrew set me straight, pointing out that commenter Miz Terry raised the issue of the Northeast closure right here, and that commenter badger had confirmed it.
Somehow I completely forgot those comments..
At any rate, the Northeast Monkey Joe's was on Newland Road, which is off of Clemson just south of I-20 (near the big flag car dealership). Although the building is now Awaken Church, you can look at it and immediately tell who the first tenant was.
(Hat tip to commenter Miz Terry)